What is Power?
“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life…don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice.” ~ Steve Jobs
Steve Jobs said this during his commencement address at Stanford University. It seems at first glance to be about living authentically. But more profoundly, it’s about living fully in in your own power.
Power is a sticky word because it has multiple meanings, and, at least in English, we don’t do a good job of differentiating the two main, but very different, aspects of power.
The word power conjures images of armies and the economic or political resources to squash competing voices. That kind of power is forceful, competitive, combative. In the body, exerting or even thinking about that kind of power pulls your stress system onto center stage and keeps it there. That is exactly the problem with this brand of power, whether is it a country, a movement or a person. Using forceful energy as one’s primary momentum is inherently taxing to your body system, and will eventually burn itself out.
On a national level, this looks like the draining of financial and other resources with no sustainable return. On a personal level it is usually some form of stress-related illness or burnout. In the two-sided coin of power, this forceful power is actually disempowering because it ultimately drains power away by requiring greater and greater resources simply to keep pace.
True power, the kind of power that is self-perpetuating because it comes from the momentum of well-being, is empowering. It’s that deep personal strength that comes when you are in the zone, or deeply centered and knowing that you will be just fine no matter what.
This kind of power doesn’t push back–it doesn’t need to. It simply is and there is no reason to defend it or flaunt it. This kind of power can be much more elusive because it requires you to be in your body and in your life in a way that forceful power does not. It nourishes your mind and body, rather than stealing resources away–kind of like a tax credit for the body.
It is the kind of strength that allows you to step out and live your own life consistently, even when someone—or everyone—in your life is hounding your ears with a different agenda. It is the kind of power that is fueled by joy, and comes from listening to your authentic inner voice, again and again and again.
In the body, authentic power fosters a deep sense of well-being and a peacefulness that supports harmony and healing. There really are not any good examples of this on a nation level, but the Kingdom of Bhutan made a big step in that direction when it began to measure success growth in terms of a Gross National Happiness Index. Since nations and societies are made up of individuals, national empowerment will come as more and more individuals step into their own authentic power
Cultivating Authentic Power
You can begin to develop authentic power with the following strategies:
Long, slow deep breathing calms the body and helps you tap into your rest and digest system, the system where you have access to authentic power. Traditional power is associated with your stress system.
Stay in the present moment with your thoughts and motivations. Authentic power is available in the present moment, where traditional power tends to be about managing the past or future.
Be aware of your emotions and feelings. When your emotional system is quiet, you are much more likely to be in authentic power. When your emotions are charged, you tend to react with traditional or forceful power.
What’s your experience with power and empowerment? What have you used to empower yourself that has worked? Share in the conversation box below!